Fri, Jul 22, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Trio of student protest leaders found guilty in HK

CONTINUE TO FIGHT:Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law will be sentenced on Aug. 15 and could face prison sentences of up to two years each

Reuters, HONG KONG

Center, from left to right, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow yesterday leave the Eastern Law Courts Building in Hong Kong after being convicted on separate charges related to pro-democracy protests in September 2014.

Photo: AFP

A Hong Kong court yesterday found bespectacled teenage democracy activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) guilty of unlawful assembly related to demonstrations that paralyzed key arteries of the territory in 2014.

Wong, 19, was acquitted of inciting others to join a rally that launched pro-democracy protests a year-and-a-half ago, when activists scaled a fence in front of a government complex forecourt known as Civic Square on Sept. 26, 2014.

“No matter what the price we need to pay, we will still continue to fight against suppression from the government,” said Wong, who rose to fame at age 15 for forcing the Hong Kong government to shelve a pro-China national education scheme in schools.

“We know facing the largest communist regime in the world is a long-term battle for us to fight for democracy,” he said.

The 79-day “Occupy Central” street demonstrations crippled parts of Hong Kong and were one of the boldest populist challenges to Chinese Communist Party leaders in decades.

Two other student leaders were also charged in connection with the rally.

Alex Chow (周永康) was found guilty of unlawful assembly and Nathan Law (羅冠聰) was found guilty of inciting others to join the protests.

The trio said they had not yet decided whether they would appeal.

Before she announced the charges, Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan (張天雁) acknowledged that the case was politically sensitive, but said the court would not be influenced and was “absolutely not the place to solve political or societal problems.”

Amnesty International Hong Kong director Mabel Au (區美寶) released a statement calling the charges vague and saying they smacked of political payback by the authorities.

Sentencing for all three is set for Aug. 15, and they were released on bail pending that hearing.

The charge of participating in an unlawful assembly has a maximum sentence of up to five years, but the magistrates court where the trio were tried can only give a maximum jail term of two years per offense due to its status as a lower court.

Law is also a candidate for September’s Legislative Council elections, but he will not be able to stand if he is sentenced to more than three months in prison.

The charges against the student activists have been seen as a potential flashpoint that could anger more radical protesters or turn the students into political martyrs at a time of increasing friction between the territory and Beijing.

There were no immediate protests outside the court, but another student activist, Billy Fung (馮敬恩), was arrested on Wednesday night for criminal intimidation, disorderly conduct in a public space, criminal damage and attempted forcible entry in connection with disrupting a Hong Kong University council meeting in January, police said.

He was formally charged yesterday.

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